Senator Gardenhire Says Stadium Venture Is Bad Deal For Taxpayers; Says It Will Lead To County Tax Increase

  • Friday, August 5, 2022
From left are Fielding Atchley, Micky Robbins, Senator Todd Gardenhire, Chuck Elmes, Sue Lotz and Will Leach
From left are Fielding Atchley, Micky Robbins, Senator Todd Gardenhire, Chuck Elmes, Sue Lotz and Will Leach
photo by Neal Thompson

Senator Todd Gardenhire said Friday that the Southside Stadium venture by the city and county is a bad deal for taxpayers that he said "no doubt" will lead to a county property tax hike.

He told members of the Civitan Club that the U.S. Pipe-Wheland site may grow into "a tax bonanza," but he said the tax collections from the projected $1 billion in investment will be going for 30 years into paying off the stadium and other uses "rather than for basic services like police and the schools." 

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday to give the final approval that is needed to set up a Tax Increment Financing District of 470 acres around the planned stadium and have a new city/county Sports Authority issue $80 million in bonds.

Senator Gardenhire said former Mayor Andy Berke came to the Legislature to ask for a new exit ramp that would go by the planned stadium.

He said the state wound up spending $34.8 million on that project, including $1,070,000 that he said property owner Gary Chazen charged the state for "200 feet of property" needed for right of way.

The speaker said initially the Lookouts owners promised front-loaded leases up to five years. He said that has changed to $1 million per year coming from the club.

Senator Gardenhire asked, "Why are we doing all this for Georgia millionaires?"

He said a Knoxville group put $75 million of their own money into a stadium planned there, and he said the Tennessee Titans are investing half a billion dollars.

He quoted Warren Buffett's saying of "When the tide goes out, then you see who's been swimming naked."

Senator Gardenhire said, "I want to see in the next 5-10 years who takes credit for voting for this thing."



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